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Billy Joe Tatum Collection

Identifier: ASTATE-2019-03-15

Scope and Contents

The Billy Joe Tatum Collection is comprised of 13 series, 68 subseries and 189 folders: the Personal series (11 subseries and 25 folders), the Organization series (11 subseries and 11 folders), the Business series (6 subseries and 19 folders), the Ozark Folk Center series (7 subseries and 9 folders), the Publication series (7 subseries and 11 folders), the Research series (6 subseries and 48 folders), the Recipes (12 subseries, 12 folders), the Publishing series (3 subseries and 12 folders), the Book Drafts series (3 subseries and 32 folders), the Publicity (5 subseries and 7 folders), the Miscellaneous series (4 subseries), the Oversized Miscellaneous series (1 box), and the Cassette Tapes series (1 box of 8 cassette tapes).


  • 1970 - 2012

Conditions Governing Access

This manuscript collection consists of physical materials. This collection has not been digitized. This collection is open for research use only in the Reading Room. It is not available for request through Interlibrary Loan. Please contact the archive via email ( at least a week in advance of your arrival to ensure the availability of the material.

Billy Joe Tatum

Billy Joe Tatum was born February 15, 1932 to Southern Baptist Minister, Dr. W.O. Taylor, and his wife, Minnie Belle Taylor. While attending Ouachita Baptist University in 1950 where she studied music, Billy Joe met Harold “Hally” Tatum. The two were married in 1951 and later had four daughters and one son. In 1958 Dr. Harold Tatum opened his medical practice in Melbourne, Arkansas and Billy Joe was his unpaid receptionist. It was then that Billy Joe began her interest in natural foods and herbal medicine. In 1970, Billy Joe began writing columns for the Ozark Mountaineer, a local publication that focused on arts and crafts, folklore, and gardening. She wrote for the Mountaineer for more than twenty years. In 1976, Billy Joe published her famous Wild Foods Cookbook and Field Guide. This book is still in publication today and is considered to be one of the foremost resources on wild foods ever published. In 1987, Billy Joe collaborated with her sister Anne Taylor Packer on a book entitled the Ozarks Collection: The Best Recipes from the Heritage and Traditions of a Storied Region. Billy Joe also worked on a wildflower coloring book for children, and collaborated with Lee Allen on the Peterson Wildflower Field Guide.

Billy Joe was more than a writer, she was also a naturalist, healer, teacher, and active in the community. She gave lectures across the United States including the Smithsonian Institution and numerous colleges. In the early 1970s Billy Joe was an active herbalist and gardener at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas and was a founding member of the Committee of 100 that was established to promote the Ozark Folk Center.

Billy Joe often opened her home, “Wildflower,” to visitors by hosting dinner parties. In 1979, one such dinner party was attended by then Governor Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton as well as Winthrop Paul Rockefeller. In April 1986, she hosted a dinner party was for then Arkansas Representative Bill Alexander.

Billy Joe Tatum was a dynamic woman who accomplished much in her 80 years, all the while battling manic depression which occasionally had her hospitalized. Billy Joe passed away March 26, 2012 surrounded by friends and family. Her obituary stated she was more than an authority on wild foods, but also an acclaimed author, gourmet chef, international traveler, and unofficial ambassador to the world for Arkansas.


11.05 Linear Feet (This collection is comprised of 24 document boxes containing 189 folders, one box of 8 cassette tapes, and one oversized document box.)




Billy Joe Tatum was a world-renowned author, naturalist, speaker, herbalist, natural foods expert, and gardener. This collection was created over the course of her life and her work at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Included in this collection are correspondence between Billy Joe and friends, family, politicians, businessmen/women, and those seeking her guidance on the subject of natural wild foods. It also contains manuscripts, articles, research, journals, calendars, photographs, original recipes, newspaper and magazine clippings, and memorabilia.


Further additions to this collection are not expected.

Billy Joe Tatum Collection Finding Aid
Flora Smith
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Archives & Special Collections - Dean B. Ellis Library Repository

Arkansas State University
Dean B. Ellis Library
P.O. Box 2040
State University AR 72467 United States
870-972-3199 (Fax)